Meyers Leonard Drafted By Portland

The Fighting Illini basketball team produced it's first lottery pick for the NBA draft since Deron Williams when the Portland Trailblazers selected Meyers Leonard with the 11th pick in the 2012 draft. Leonard was on hand to hear the good news.

Meyers Leonard was selected with the 11th pick in the 2012 draft. He was in the "green room" awaiting his draft status with his mother, brother, girl friend, his Illinois basketball coach Bruce Weber and others close to him.

"It was an unbelievable and surreal feeling. Getting to share this special experience was a very happy time and a great one in my young life, and my family and friends' lives."

Leonard worked out with Portland and had a good feeling about the team.

"They certainly showed some interest. Lacking at the center position was one of the things that was apparent. I really liked their staff and interviewed well with them.

"I felt, after they took Damian (Lillard) at #6, that I had an opportunity to go there. I've been in contact with the GM and the coach, and I'm excited to have an opportunity to be playing with them."

Leonard's draft stock seemed to rise with each passing day. He was asked what he feels allowed him to make such a strong impression with NBA teams.

"I think I surprised some people on the court with my ability to shoot the ball. Not only that, I showed my willingness to work hard and compete. And then off the court helped me a lot.

"I was very professional I believe, and mature in my interview. I showed up in a suit and was straightforward with my answers. I came across as very articulate and really kind of blew some teams away. It was a combination of things that really helped my draft stock."

The Robinson 7-footer realizes he still has much to learn.

"Just everything. Working on my back-to-the-basket game, working on my footwork, working on facing up, and most important is coming to work hard every day and learning."

He will have a chance to develop while playing behind established center Lamarcus Aldridge.

"It'll be great. Coming off an all-star year, he'll be a great mentor for me I believe, both on and off the court. I believe he handles himself in a very professional way, and I'm gonna look to him for advice. And playing next to him, I can learn things from him."

Among the perks for Leonard is the massive number of autographs he has been signing lately.

"A lot. I'm used to doing it on campus. It's more of a national scene now. I love giving back and always will."

That includes his college home. Leonard enamored himself with Illini fans by describing future plans.

"I will be around as much as I possibly can. I love my Illini family, and I always will. I take pride in it; I love the school."

In the meantime, Leonard will be moving his mother into a home in Portland and preparing for what everyone hopes will be a long and highly productive professional career.

Illini Inquirer Top Stories